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The Winterlings

The Animal Groom

(self-released; US: 12 Oct 2010; UK: 12 Oct 2010)

Competent set of country-folk tunes

The Winterlings are Wolff Bowden and Amanda Birdsall, both of whom sing, play guitar and write country-inflected folk songs. Birdsall contributes other sonic textures as well, mainly keyboards and something called a banjitar. On The Animal Groom, the pair trade off as lead singer, and harmonies figure in nearly every song. Those songs range from the sincere and affecting (“Take Give”, “Wildflowers”) to the sincere but kind of dull (“The Postman”, “Brave Then”) to the jaunty (“Bird in the Corn”). Generally, Birdsall’s voice is more compelling than Bowden’s, which has an unfortunate tendency to slip into swoony Eddie Vedder-isms when you least expect it. Birdsall also has far and away the standout track on the album, “Jennie Hodgers”, an unblinking old style ballad about a young woman who leaves home to fight in the Confederate army. With its rollicking banjo (banjitar?) underpinnings and dripping-with-yearning vocals, “Jennie Hodgers” is nearly worth the price of admission all by its lonesome.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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